Arlo is a folk singer. Darla? A little rascal, of course. But what about this rarity?
Thanks to Laura for suggesting Arla as Name of the Day.
Between 1930 and 1941, Arla hugged the outer edge of the US Top 1000 for girls. While she sounds unusual today, the -arl sound was in vogue.
For boys in the 1930s, the following ranked in the US Top 1000:
- Carl came in at #29, with Carlo, Carlton, Carleton and Carlyle also ranked;
- Arlan, Arlen and Arland charted;
- So did Harlan, Harland and Garland.
Girls’ names also featured the -arl, including:
- The decade’s #11 Carol, plus Carolyn, Carole and Carolee;
- Carlene and Carleen;
- Carla and Karla, Darla and Marla.
It was just a hop, skip and a jump from many common names to Arla.
Arla sounds like an antique, perhaps even a bit salvaged from an old Germanic name. But her origins are obscure:
- Arlo is sometimes listed as an Italian variant of Charles. Carla is, of course, a feminine form of Charles;
- Arla is a tiny Greek village;
- Other place names include Sweden’s Arlanda airport and Northern Virginia’s Arlandia – but neither started out as personal names;
- The Old English ærlice is the source of our word early and an archaic Swedish term for early, arla. It lives on as the name of a Scandinavian food conglomerate;
- Arland, which may relate to the Old Norse örlendr – foreigner;
- My favorite is the Norman French verb hareler – to cause trouble. But it’s a stretch;
- The Fett family of bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe includes Boba’s aunt, Arla Fett.
The two strongest theories link Arla to the Norse element arn, or eagle – as in Arnold or suggest that she’s a twist on Arline/Arlene/Arleen. Arline was coined for an 1843 opera.
And here’s the thing – that 1843 opera was popular for years and inspired several film adaptations. Arlene was a Top 100 name from 1931 through 1945. In 1936, Laurel and Hardy took their twist on the story to the big screen, featuring Darla Hood – yup, the actress from Our Gang – as Arline.
All of those explanations aside, it seems most likely that Arla is simply a modern coinage based on oh so many similar names in use circa 1930.
Arla could sound rather dated, but she fits in reasonably well with two-syllable, ends-in-a names for girls, from old school choices like Emma and Cora to newer ones like Tyra.
Add in the rise of Carly, Marlee and even Harley, plus Scarlett, Charlie for girls and starbaby Harlow, and the -arl sound might be back.
If you’re looking for short and distinctive, and don’t mind a lack of definite meaning or origin, Arla might satisfy.